For the past 2 years, GEAE has piloted a training program to help businesses educate their employees on the rights of LGBT people in their customer base. With the help of Visit Erie and Chris Temple, GEAE board members and advisory council members have developed and revised these training program to fit any number of situations, from educational institutions, hotels and restaurants, human service organizations, and even the prison system. The impetus for the LGBT competency training “sprung from the vision of GEAE to continue to make our beautiful and diverse Erie community a safe and welcoming community for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity through quality educational programs, service opportunities, and social events, states GEAE President and trainer, Will Koehler. The Competency Training is unique in that each session is tailored to a unique audience that has expressed interest in providing their services to LGBT constituents in a welcoming and competent manner.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

While each group of participants has its own challenges, these unique situations have allowed the GEAE trainers to adapt and deepen their training to not just an informational session, but an interactive experience that activates participants’ understanding and reactions to situations involving LGBT people.

It is apparent that these training programs are not only encouraged, but they are a necessity. More organizations are asking for assistance and larger training sessions, even after some of them have done an initial session with their core staff. Several area businesses and nonprofits have requested sessions with the GEAE trainers and GEAE is happy to fill the need, preparing more trainers for various sessions.

One participant from a recent session remarked that while many of their staff was aware of basic issues, the competency training helped them to realize how they can be more helpful, especially when they aren’t necessary used to working with the personal issues of clients. “Our staff lacked the knowledge needed in how to handle certain situations in a meaningful and sensitive manner. Most of our clientele is female, so working with a transgender client was a new situation for them and they wanted to handle it so that the client felt supported.”

The LGBT Competency training is the main session offered by GEAE, but others are in development. Recently a Bystander Training was piloted at the request of several individuals and organizations who saw a need in the community.

Will Koehler states that, “I strongly believe that the majority of our wonderfully diverse community in Erie and the surrounding area embrace all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I often hear people coming into our training asking “Why do we still need this training? It is 2017!” The thing is, when people leave our training, they come away with an understanding of how important being informed and equipped really is. Just because they personally are allies to LGBT people and our community is usually welcoming, doesn’t mean that we don’t see discrimination, harassment, and bullying. It also surprises people to learn what protections and rights LGBT people do not have, when the majority of the community assumes we all have.”

GEAE is thrilled that more people wish to gain this level of understanding and apply their knowledge when the situation presents itself.

With the added attention and increased potential violence against LGBT people, it is apparent that knowing what to do when, not if, a situation arises is better than trying to improvise. This hands on training will help participants achieve that level of comfort when faced with a variety of situations.

Want to know more about GEAE’s training programs? Check out the video and overview. Our staff will be happy to meet with you to discuss your specific needs, scheduling, and pricing.